Category Archives: Ephemera

Ol’ Rough ‘n’ Ready

General Zachary Taylor was playing it cool… during the campaign of 1848.  Both political parties of the day were seeking his candidacy, but he was not willing to commit;

“It is to me a matter of perfect indifference whether I am even elected [as president] or not. I do not intend any party shall use me as a convenience; if dropped I intend to stand aloof, & let Whigs and Democrats [use] this matter in their own way….”

I believe in slavery, maybe...

I believe in slavery, maybe…

A substantial slave owner and southerner… Taylor was expected to support the slave owning interests in the Democratic party.  Again, Taylor was playing the pragmatist…even hinting at support of the Wilmot Proviso(banning slavery in the Mexican Cession.)   Taylor’s political views were at best ambivalent, at worst, an utter mystery.

“The Wilmot Proviso will shake that body to its center…but I hope some compromise will be entered into between the two parties slavery & anti slavery which will have the effect of allay[ing] violent passions on both sides, which will have the effect of perpetuating…or shortening the Union….”

Taylor

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The Verdict

Great men with larger-than-life personalities … do not always make the best Presidents.  Too much of their focus is directed inward, and the needs of the electorate are overlooked (see Jackson.)  Consistency is required when dealing with momentous issues.

In the right place at the right time

James Knox Polk was the right man… in the right place, at the right time.  He was not flashy, brilliant, cagy, or diabolical as many have charged.  Polk was steady, determined, erudite, and conscientious; some might even call him boring.  His presence demanded respect, but did not inspire awe.  He possessed a keen mind and was an excellent administrator.  Simply put, he got things done, with nearly no regard for his own legacy.

For too long revisionists in academia… have kept the real Polk from us.  Hopefully this blogger has been able to shed new light on an important figure long shrouded by academic misdeeds.  Polk now sits comfortably in the top ten lists of most Presidential historians…where he belongs.


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Americans to Americans

Robert E. Lee chose General John B. Gordon… to officially surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to the Union on April 12, 1865.  Gordon was an amateur soldier who proved to be the consummate warrior.  Through the course of the conflict Gordon was badly wounded seven times, with five minnie balls hitting him at the battle of Antietam in 1862.  Lee often praised Gordon’s actions in battle,  “characterized by splendid audacity.”

True citizen soldier

US Grant selected General Joshua L. Chamberlain… to accept the Confederate surrender.  Chamberlain was a college professor (of rhetoric) who enlisted in the 20th Maine Vols. He served with distinction from Fredericksburg to Petersburg, winning the Medal of Honor for his defense of Little Round Top during the Gettysburg campaign.  Chamberlain was wounded six times (nearly dying at Petersburg in 1864)  and cited for bravery four times during his service.

Soul of a Lion

As Gordon led the Confederate army past… the Army of the Potomac, Chamberlain ordered the men to “Carry Arms”, the snap of the leather and metal signaled a marching salute.  Gordon, surprised by the gesture, ordered the Confederates to respond.   Chamberlain described Gordon’s performance, “At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword point to his toe in salutation.”    Gordon truly understood the significance of the gesture, “Chamberlain called his men into line and as the Confederate soldiers marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes—a token of respect from Americans to Americans.”

Americans to Americans

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The Johnson Treatment at Work

LBJ worked closely with civil rights leaders… despite attempts of late to portray him as a vile racist.  The Johnson treatment always started with a cause Johnson cared deeply about. More than Kennedy imagined, his successor pressed for equal rights- forcing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in less than 100 days.

Consulting with MLK in 1964

Consulting with MLK in 1964

 

Johnson always kept his house in order… Arguably the most powerful and effective Majority leader in the history of the US Senate, no one rallied the troops like LBJ.

Schooling the Jr. Senator from Massachucetts in 1957

Schooling the Jr. Senator from Massachusetts in 1957

 

Twisting arms was sport to Johnson… and he never shied away from confrontation.  His battles with conservative Southern Democrats were some of the nastiest in the political records- LBJ usually got his way….

Crushing civil rights opponent Richard Russell of Georgia.

Crushing civil rights opponent Richard Russell of Georgia.

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Facts in Five

Daniel Webster edition

  • Webster is one of two men to serve as United States Secretary of State under three Presidents: Harrison, Tyler, and Fillmore.
  • Webster represented New Hampshire in the House of Representatives and Massachusetts in the Senate.
  • The leading Constitutional scholar of his day, Webster argued 223 cases in front of the Supreme Court.
  • Support for Clay’s Compromise of 1850 led to his resignation from the Senate that same year. 
  • Webster sought the Whig Party nomination for President three times… he never secured it. 
"I wish to speak today not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man but as an American..."

“I wish to speak today not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man but as an American…”

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Facts in Five

Don’t call him “Teddy” edition

  • No one called him “Teddy” to his face; the nickname he preferred was  TR.
  • TR claimed he decided to be a Republican after watching Lincoln’s funeral parade from his grandfather’s Manhattan townhouse.
  • Frightened of his activism, the Republican party decided to “hide” Roosevelt on McKinley’s ticket in 1900
  • Roosevelt’s Progressive politics can be traced to the time he spent representing a poor, predominately immigrant district in the New York legislature
  • It was TR that ordered Commodore George Dewey’s squadron to the Philippines in anticipation of war with Spain
Always be ready to use the Big Stick

Always be ready to use the Big Stick

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Facts in Five

Stephen Decatur edition…

  • British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson declared Decatur’s mission to burn the USS Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor, “The most bold and daring act of the age…”
  • Decatur commanded some of America’s greatest warships including: USS United States, USS President, and USS Constitution
  • He was the youngest man to reach the rank of Captain in the history of the US Navy
  • Decatur dictated favorable treaties with all the Barbary states in 1815- including reimbursements for lost cargo during the War of 1812
  • When the Dey of Algiers demanded gunpowder as a gift during negotiations, Decatur resounded that, “you must expect to receive {cannon} balls with it!”
Most bold and daring

Most bold and daring

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